Dovetail Woodworking: Turning A Fast Joint Vase On A Lathe


The MLCS Fast Joint Precision Joinery System offers a broad range of dovetail patterns you can create with a router. Combining these dovetail patterns with vertical staves in a tapered vase yields a unique combination of joinery techniques that can be turned on a lathe—somewhat of a “joinery sampler.”

The following is a brief overview of the process; for the complete instructions, please access the PDF Instructional here.

   Complete PDF

The Dovetail Vase

  1. First, pick the “palette” of wood you will use. *Tip: Contrasting wood provides the best visual appeal. (Because the vase developed for this example has six staves, we used three contrasting woods: maple, cherry, and purpleheart.)
  2. After selecting the woods, cut six blocks of uniform thickness and size on a table saw.
  3. Then cut the dovetail joints into six edges (three male, three female) to provide three contrasting sections of wood.
Cutting male and female dovetail joint edges. Cutting dovetail joints with a MLCS router.
  1. Once the dovetail joints are cut and fitted, glue the contrasting dovetail joints together.
Cut and fitted contrasting dovetail joints. Dovetail joints glued and clamped together.
  1. Now the basic ingredients are ready to begin cutting the tapered vertical staves that make up the vase. (Tapered staves use compound angles to yield the desired shape. See the complete PDF Instructional for the necessary cuts.)
  2. Using a digital angle gauge, set the table saw. *Tip: Use an Osborne sliding angle cutting guide to cut the vertical cuts. But before making these cuts, ensure proper alignment: cut a clean top and bottom edge on the glued sections.
  3. Then cut six vertical staves. (You can cut three the with the Fast Joint dovetail joints centered, and the other from the three blank wood selections.)
  4. Afterwards, fit-check, glue, and clamp the staves.
Cutting vertical staves for the vase assembly. Gluing and clamping the vase's vertical staves.

The Dovetail Vase on the Lathe

Now transfer the assembled stack of vertical staves to the lathe, where you will mate a base section to the smaller end. *Tip: It is important to make sure that grain orientations are consistent between the staves and base. This ensures joints don’t separate with varying humidity after the glue joints are dry.

It’s also important to plan the outer design so there is sufficient material to turn. Avoid the unpleasant mistake of turning a hole in the wood, by planning the design on paper with a vertical top view. Then compare the size and thickness of the six flat stave sections with a curved outer diameter.

  1. After mating the cherry base to the “stack,” cut a tenon in the base. This is so the “stack” can be held on the drive end of the lathe with a 4-jaw clamp. *Tip: Insert a tapered wooden extension to the tailstock to hold the stack securely while turning the outside and top surfaces.
Transferring the dovetail vase to a lathe. A tapered wooden extension holding the vase stack securely.
Cutting and sanding the outer surface of the dovetail tapered vase. Turning the base of the dovetail tapered vase.
  1. After sanding the outer surface, rotate the vase so you can turn the base.
  2. With turning and sanding complete, the raw-wood vase is now ready for finishing and polishing.

In this case, we used a resin-based oil finish to highlight the different woods and offer a durable finish. Then polished the surfaces on a 3-wheel polishing setup on the lathe.

Finalized dovetial joinery vase.    Get the Fast Joint Precision Joinery System!


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